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What's the harm? Asking that simple question about common online activities can yield surprising and sobering results. Many of the most innocuous online tasks can actually be major risk factors for identity theft or other kinds of cybercrime. Today's hackers and fraudsters use varied methods to cause problems for law-abiding internet users, from sophisticated and targeted attacks to snares designed to catch unsuspecting individuals.
One of the seemingly harmless threats proliferating online today is the social media quiz. These frivolous diversions are easy to complete and don't demand too much thought. This suits criminals' purposes. When they use quizzes as identity theft traps, they are counting on inattention and carelessness on the part of their victims.
Understand What You're Giving Away
While the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal may have highlighted the insecurity of personal data on social media platforms, users may underestimate just how easy it is to accidentally and willingly give away vital information by filling out an online quiz. Criminals using this kind of scam take cues from phishing emails, requesting details in ways that seem natural and harmless.
According to IT expert Brian Krebs, there are posts all over Facebook that ask users to fill in the name of a first pet, model of a first car or location where they grew up. When they post the response in the comments, the data is there for whoever wants to take it. Identity thieves can then exploit that information, which typically matches up with common password-retrieval security questions.
Viral posts asking how people met their spouses, what their high school mascots were or where they worked when they were younger are presented as simple diversions, and in plenty of cases they probably are. But cunning identity thieves will mine data from these posts and use it to break into confidential accounts.
Facebook is a prime location for data theft via viral quizzes.
Beware of Topical and Trendy Posts
When a thief wants to give a fraudulent quiz an especially big push, that criminal may tie the post in with current events or notable news. USA Today highlighted the suspicious quizzes circulating around the recent British Royal Family wedding. People responding to these seemingly lighthearted posts may end up revealing pertinent information that will compromise their accounts.
USA Today added that it doesn't matter whether a quiz is specifically created by identity thieves. As long as the post convinces people to reveal data that could be used against them, the danger is real. Criminals will scan through the comments of a post. Some quizzes ask people to make their own posts and create an index of information for use in fraud.
Keep Your Defenses Up
It's remarkably easy to stumble into unsafe territory on social media. There are whole communities of data thieves dedicated to turning a profit on information forfeited on social media. Common sense posting is the first rule of keeping data out of these thieves' hands. Remember that even when you post information out of the context of your personal accounts, facts such as pets' names, old addresses and more can give cybercriminals everything they need to compromise your identity.
In a data-driven age, digital privacy is more important than ever. Although it is challenging to predict exactly how collected data will be used, it’s important to think proactively about how best to secure personal data. That's where Identity Guard can help. By leveraging IBM Watson technology, Identity Guard can help you monitor billions of data points for potential risks to your identity. Learn more about how you can get protected today!